Demographic variation of gender expression among four natural populations and one cultivated in a monoecious species, Schisandra chinensis (Schisandraceae), was studied over three consecutive years in a bid to clarify its sexual system and to better understand reproductive strategies in monoecious plants. We found that gender expression was more variable in the natural populations than in the cultivated one. In the natural populations, plant size was positively correlated with flower production (total, male and female) but not with the female ratio, whereas shade intensity was negatively correlated with the female ratio. In the cultivated population, plant age was positively correlated with flower production and the female ratio within an age range. Hence, gender expression and reproductive output in Schisandra chinensis was found to be age-dependent. The female ratio varied with age; young and old plants had lower female ratios. Our study confirmed the sexual system in the species to be monoecy as opposed to dioecy, and supported the hypothesis that monoecious plants can regulate gender expression by altering quantities of pistillate and staminate flowers at the individual plant level to maximize fitness.
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